I have diabetes and I am travelling. What should I carry with me?
We all love to travel. Be it a family trip or a religious journey, travelling always relaxes the mind and the body. But are there any restrictions when it comes to travelling if you have diabetes?
Not really, provided your blood glucose levels are well controlled and you have the green signal from your doctor.
When traveling, all diabetes patients must carry with them certain essential things that may be required at a time of emergency.
Here, we list 6 important things all patients with diabetes should carry.
1. Glucose Powder
Glucose powder (or tablets) can be a lifesaver in diabetes.
A common concern amongst people with diabetes is the risk of the blood sugar levels dropping too much. This is called hypoglycemia.
Hypoglycemia can lead to a number of different symptoms that can affect both the body and the brain.
One reason why people develop hypoglycemia is the change in food timings. When travelling, especially when travelling abroad, it is essential that all patients stick to eating their food and snacks at the same time that they would normally do.
If on a flight, make sure you request for a meal that is low in sugar and fat. You may need to get in touch with the airline a few days prior to your travel.
If you start to develop symptoms of hypoglycemia, then take at least 3 to 4 heaped spoons of glucose powder straight away. This will help bring your sugar levels up within a short span of time.
To learn more on managing hypoglycemia, you can read this article.
2. Medical ID
In the Western countries, patients with diabetes carry with them some form of medical ID that contains essential information about their health, next of kin contact information and doctor information.
This is vital in case an emergency situation arises and there are no family members with you.
So what information should your medical ID or medical alert bracelet have on it?
1. Your full name and date of birth
2. The list of your medical conditions
3. The name of your medicines and their dose
4. The list of your allergies – food and medicines
5. The name of your doctor and their contact number
6. Emergency contact number – This could be a next of kin or close friend
A glucometer is a device that can determine blood glucose levels through a simple pin prick to the finger.
Carrying a glucometer is strongly recommended for all people with diabetes.
You never know when your blood sugars may be too high or too low, and it only takes a few seconds to figure this out.
Glucometers come with a handy pouch that you could put in your hand bag or purse and take with you anywhere. They are light and extremely simple to use.
If you can’t carry a glucometer device, then you could use the newer ones that are currently available that link to an app on your phone, like the Aina device.
4. Your Insulin
Your insulin (if you are taking it) is the most important part of your blood sugar management.
If you are travelling to a different country in a different time zone, then speak to your doctor about how to manage your insulin doses.
They will be able to guide you regarding the timing of your insulin when you travel.
The American Diabetes Association suggests that those travelling eastwards take lesser insulin (as days are shorter) while those travelling westwards take more insulin (as days are longer).
One suggestion that has been made by people using insulin injections (not pens), is that air not be pushed into the insulin bottle when drawing up insulin.
This is because the pressure in a flight cabin can make it difficult to push air into the insulin vial, and the wrong dose of insulin may be dispensed.
If you are travelling by road, make sure you carry some snacks just in case you can’t stop for a meal and it is time to take your insulin.
This will ensure your blood sugar levels remain under control.
5. Your Prescription
Avoid getting stopped by immigration by carrying your prescription with you, especially if you take insulin.
By carrying a valid prescription, you can avoid the hassle of being questioned about each and every medicine you are carrying with you.
Officials are aware that a lot of people with diabetes travel by flight everyday, but there are certain miscreants that they need to keep an eye out for.
You don’t need to carry your prescription if you have already reached your destination and are seeing the sights, especially if you have a medical ID with you.
Instead, take a picture of your prescription on your phone (no one ever goes anywhere without their phone!!).
It is easy to share this with your doctor back in your home country through email or WhatsApp should the need arise for urgent medical advice.
Make sure you visit your doctor a week or so before you travel to ensure that you are okay to go ahead and to get an up to date prescription.
6. Good footwear
If you are travelling, chances are you will be walking a fair bit.
The last thing you should be doing is wandering on unknown streets without wearing the right footwear.
Diabetes causes diabetic neuropathy – a condition where the sensation in the feet is reduced due to the effect of the high blood glucose levels on the nerves.
Neuropathy can cause a loss of pain sensation. This means that if you stepped on a rusty nail or a thorn, you probably would not realise it.
Infection is a worrying problem in diabetes, not only because it can be a lot more severe in diabetes, but also because it can be notoriously difficult to treat.
Advanced cases of skin infection require prolonged stays in hospitals and occasionally surgery. This is the last thing you want when you are travelling, even if you have travel insurance.
Sports trainers are the best if you are planning on walking a lot. Avoid slippers and sandals as these can expose your feet and toes and render them prone to injury.
Got diabetes? Then travel safe. These essential paraphernalia will help you enjoy your holiday without worrying about your blood sugar levels.
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